New Program to Assist High School Seniors in Boosting ACT Scores

Aug 26, 2021 at 02:33 pm by WGNS

The Tennessee Department of Education has announced an opportunity this fall for all high school seniors to boost their scores on the ACT college entrance exam after taking the test the first time as a junior during the COVID-19 pandemic. While a recent ACT, Inc. study found that the 2020-21 ACT results indicated an anticipated decline in ACT scores nationwide, Tennessee is the first and only state to offer this free retake opportunity to every Tennessee high school senior this fall. 

The ACT is a comprehensive college entrance exam covering a wide range of subjects that assess students’ mathematical skills, grammar usage, science interpretation, and reading comprehension. Because results from college readiness tests like ACT are often used to determine eligibility for scholarships, including the Tennessee HOPE scholarship, ACT re-take opportunities empower students to fulfill requirements for college admission and demonstrate readiness.  


This year, the department is urging all Tennessee high school seniors to take advantage of the fall ACT retake opportunity and has expanded the state testing windows to provide additional options. ACT Inc.’s research shows that students who take the ACT more than once increase their score by an average of 1 point. Students who improve their scores in one or more subject areas tested will have their super-score composite available to send to postsecondary institutions and scholarship programs. 

“While the fall ACT retake has always been available to our seniors, this year’s retake opportunities offer our seniors one more chance to potentially boost their scores and demonstrate readiness for college and career,” says Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “ACT Inc.’s research shows that by participating in these opportunities, students are more likely to increase their ACT scores, and we want all our students to achieve their highest potential. I encourage our districts, schools, and families to help us ensure all Tennessee high school seniors can take advantage of this opportunity.” 

Districts across the state will be able to offer the free fall ACT retake opportunities during one of the following three-day windows: 

·         October 5-7, 2021 

·         October 19-21, 2021 

·         November 2-4, 2021  

“ACT is proud to partner with Tennessee as we encourage all student to take advantage of Tennessee’s ACT Senior Retake to improve students’ composite scores. Last year, over 89% of Tennessee seniors participated in the ACT Senior Retake.  ACT data shows that when a student tests more than once, their ACT composite score increases by about 1 point,” said Catherine Hoffman, ACT’s Vice President of State and Federal Programs. “In many cases, this score increase provided scholarship funds and many students were not required to take remedial classes.  This resulted in dollars back into Tennessee families’ pockets and impacts that will last for generations.  Tennessee continues to put students first and make lasting change for students.” 

Aligned with the department’s Best for All strategic plan, the ACT provides essential data and context for state and district leaders on student readiness for postsecondary opportunities. Students who score a 21 or higher on the ACT also meet criteria for Ready Graduate, the state’s indicator to reward schools and districts whose high school graduates demonstrate postsecondary readiness.  

Fifty percent of students who participated in the Fall Senior Retake in 2019 increased their composite score from their junior year in 2018. Additionally, 3,825 seniors raised their composite score to a 21 or higher, allowing them to access more than $61 million in HOPE Scholarship funds.  

The department recognized the impending impact the global pandemic would have on K-12 education in Tennessee and has proactively and strategically committed investments to prioritize meeting the needs of all Tennessee students through the state’s ARP ESSER plan, which lays out the state’s spending strategy for its portion of federal COVID-19 relief and stimulus funding to benefit K-12 education in Tennessee, including supports for success on the ACT. 

The department has partnered with the University of Tennessee at Martin to provide all Tennessee high school students and teachers with access to free, virtual workshops, office hours, and classes on how to succeed on the ACT.  

Throughout the summer, the ACT Success Tactics Workshops and Mastery Classes were available for free via Zoom to all Tennessee high school teachers and students, designed for rising 11th and 12th graders, to gain knowledge and skills to prepare for and be successful on the ACT. The workshops and classes are being held through the fall and are available to register for here


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